John Adams: Night and day difference in last two Lady Vols' games

John Adams
Kentucky's A'dia Mathies (1) shoots next to Tennessee's Taber Spani (13) and Cierra Burdick during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game at Memorial Coliseum in Lexington, Ky., Sunday, March 3, 2013. (AP Photo/James Crisp)

Kentucky's A'dia Mathies (1) shoots next to Tennessee's Taber Spani (13) and Cierra Burdick during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game at Memorial Coliseum in Lexington, Ky., Sunday, March 3, 2013. (AP Photo/James Crisp)

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LEXINGTON, Ky. — Senior Night turned into Senior Day. And the Tennessee women’s basketball team was barely recognizable in the transition.

After clinching the SEC regular-season championship and celebrating Senior Night on Thursday, the eighth-ranked Lady Vols looked utterly helpless Sunday on Kentucky’s Senior Day at Memorial Coliseum.

The frustration mounted as fast as the turnovers and shorthanded Tennessee lost its poise long before it lost the game, 78-65, to 10th-ranked Kentucky.

The Lady Vols played without injured center Isabelle Harrison. But they were missing more than a starter.

Their confidence eroded possession by possession against a pressing, pawing Wildcats defense, which forced 31 turnovers, including 19 in the first half.

UT’s problems began almost as soon as its first dribble. It had seven turnovers in its first 10 possessions.

“We just got outworked and out-hustled,” Tennessee coach Holly Warlick said. “We didn’t get the job done. I thought it would be difficult to play two games of this magnitude back-to-back.”

UT’s incompetence was magnified by its superb play just three days earlier in an 82-72 victory over 13th-ranked Texas A&M. The same offense that at times was downright dazzling against the Aggies was dazed from the outset against Kentucky.

“Anybody that has played here before knows that’s what Kentucky does,” UT guard Meighan Simmons said. “They’re going to come out and hit you with the first punch.

“We had to regroup.”

The Lady Vols cut a 12-point lead to two late in the first half, but the comeback was more a result of Kentucky’s wayward shooting (31.8 percent from the field in the first half) than a Tennessee turnaround. The Wildcats quickly reestablished their superiority in the opening minutes of the second half.

Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell would have had it no other way.

“I made it very clear that nothing was acceptable but victory,” said Mitchell, a former UT graduate assistant who, after just six seasons at Kentucky, has more victories than any other women’s basketball coach in school history.

Mitchell’s motivation stemmed mainly from it being the final home game for seniors A’dia Mathies and Brittany Henderson.

“Those kids came here when we were selling a dream,” Mitchell said. And now, they have made it a reality.

“Nobody wanted to be around me if we lost.”

Mathies helped make sure that didn’t happen. The Kentucky guard, who scored 34 points against UT on the same floor last season, did much of her damage on defense this time.

Although Simmons had a team-high 17 points, she

struggled terribly against Mathies, who blocked two of her shots and helped hound her into 4-for-15 shooting from the field.

“Mathies is a great player,” Simmons said. “She made me better. She made sure I didn’t get anything easy.”

Nothing came easy for her teammates, either. Not dribbles or passes or shots.

And when their expressions reflected their struggle, Kentucky seized on that as well.

“You feed off it,” Kentucky point guard Jennifer O’Neill said. “You get momentum off it.”

As dominant as Kentucky was, it still couldn’t make up for Tennessee owning the SEC regular-season championship.

“I was concerned we didn’t win the title,” Mitchell said. “I was very, very disappointed. We desperately wanted to win the title.”

But Kentucky at least succeeded in beating the team that did. And it looked like a champion in the process.

John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-2684 or adamsj@knoxnews.com. Follow him on Twitter at johnadamskns.com.

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Comments » 14

strops writes:

Another hack job by little johnny adams. You have nothing but criticism of the Lady Vols and how bad they looked but didn't bother to mention how many injuries and even downplayed that. We used seven players and one of those was no close to full strength.
Even when we rallied to within two points it was because of Kentucky's wayward shooting and not anything to do with the Lady Vol defense.
If you hate everything Tennessee why not make the Vol and Lady Vol nation happy and go back to the swamps. Obviously it is hard for you to give the Lady Vols credit for winning the SEC regular season championship. The Lady Cats might look like champs but give the Lady Vols the credit they deserve. THEY ARE THE CHAMPS!!! However, you, adams, are and will always be the loser.

underthehill writes:

in response to strops:

Another hack job by little johnny adams. You have nothing but criticism of the Lady Vols and how bad they looked but didn't bother to mention how many injuries and even downplayed that. We used seven players and one of those was no close to full strength.
Even when we rallied to within two points it was because of Kentucky's wayward shooting and not anything to do with the Lady Vol defense.
If you hate everything Tennessee why not make the Vol and Lady Vol nation happy and go back to the swamps. Obviously it is hard for you to give the Lady Vols credit for winning the SEC regular season championship. The Lady Cats might look like champs but give the Lady Vols the credit they deserve. THEY ARE THE CHAMPS!!! However, you, adams, are and will always be the loser.

As dominant as Ky was..it still did not make up for the Lady Vols winning the SEC championship..did you not read this in the article..or do you not understand he is giving the Lady Vols credit for winning the SEC..

emailnodata (Inactive) writes:

Whatever, Adams.

I prefer to look at a team that showed a lot of guts in a game where their best post (graves) was removed from it virtually from the beginning by fouls and the guards, other than Simmons, were barely able to run.

You, and UK, can gloat over a home-cooked meal all you want. Might have been nice had your angle been "LV's show heart, fight to the end in physical road game", but, hey, I prefer your snark and belittlement.

A##-hole.

emailnodata (Inactive) writes:

At least from one fan:

LV's, I appreciate the effort you put into this game.

'Nuff said.

emailnodata (Inactive) writes:

in response to underthehill:

As dominant as Ky was..it still did not make up for the Lady Vols winning the SEC championship..did you not read this in the article..or do you not understand he is giving the Lady Vols credit for winning the SEC..

@under
sorry, but I, too,take Adams as being a condescending snot on this one.

He's a columnist, he gets paid for drawing comments and eyeballs.

I'm not nearly as close to the Vol/LV program as I sued to be, and I can tell you I felt for those ladies. I was watching on ESPNU on a 46-inch screen, and it was easy to see from play 1 that the A&N game had not warn off physically, emotionally, or mentally. Those players sold out every ounce they had to beat a physically superior A&M, and just could NOT bring it back in gear in front of a hostile crowd, physical team, and.....whatever else.

So, yeah, Adams wrote the column, and I'm calling him out for being a jerk.

JimmyJoe writes:

I don't appreciate the effort... There wasn't any... They cut the nets down Thursday night and didn't show up today... I love em but...Im not proud of the way they played today. Kentucky sent a message... Tennessee looked more like a team that could lose to Chattanooga and Missouri than a top ten team today.

emailnodata (Inactive) writes:

in response to JimmyJoe:

I don't appreciate the effort... There wasn't any... They cut the nets down Thursday night and didn't show up today... I love em but...Im not proud of the way they played today. Kentucky sent a message... Tennessee looked more like a team that could lose to Chattanooga and Missouri than a top ten team today.

No, I'm sure you don't appreciate the effort.

I saw a tired, beat up team trying to stay in a game that they could have just packed it in.

You, however, saw "no effort".

That's your right as a fan. I just happen to disagree. I think it takes a whole different magnitude of effort to play hard in a game where nothing is going well, in any aspect, and not get run out of the building.

JimmyJoe writes:

Well..they all admitted they didn't bring it... Good thing they won Thursday...and good thing they got help last week... You and I don't have the same definition of pack it in... I think 19 turnovers in one half is pretty much packing it in...they didn't play hard...they got ran out of the gym... I mean...it was one miss pass and take away after another... Seriously... I'm all for em... Root for em...but the effort wasn't there tonite...and I mean dang if it was...then we got more problems than this.

emailnodata (Inactive) writes:

in response to JimmyJoe:

Well..they all admitted they didn't bring it... Good thing they won Thursday...and good thing they got help last week... You and I don't have the same definition of pack it in... I think 19 turnovers in one half is pretty much packing it in...they didn't play hard...they got ran out of the gym... I mean...it was one miss pass and take away after another... Seriously... I'm all for em... Root for em...but the effort wasn't there tonite...and I mean dang if it was...then we got more problems than this.

Well, yeah, you DO have more problems;
-Massengale is an average PG at best, when hurt, she's terrible
-Spani is and has been a marginal tweener her entire career
-Simmons weighs about 3 pounds, and when she gets beat on like she did with A&M, she's not going to be sharp the next game.

@JJ, we've kinda been through this is not a super talented team, nor deep. To win, it has to play together, smart, with energy. 3 of 3 were missing yesterday. However, for this game I dismiss it because I know Massengale was hurting, Brudick and Williams both had leg injuries, and Graves got whistled out of it.

Like I said, let UK and Adams feast on the home-cooked meal, and to hell with both of them.

underthehill writes:

in response to emailnodata:

@under
sorry, but I, too,take Adams as being a condescending snot on this one.

He's a columnist, he gets paid for drawing comments and eyeballs.

I'm not nearly as close to the Vol/LV program as I sued to be, and I can tell you I felt for those ladies. I was watching on ESPNU on a 46-inch screen, and it was easy to see from play 1 that the A&N game had not warn off physically, emotionally, or mentally. Those players sold out every ounce they had to beat a physically superior A&M, and just could NOT bring it back in gear in front of a hostile crowd, physical team, and.....whatever else.

So, yeah, Adams wrote the column, and I'm calling him out for being a jerk.

..this team has shown a lot of fight to win the SEC..I think they will bounce back as a better team because of this fiasco..and give Adams something good to report..

orangecountyvols writes:

email,

I agree with you. Obviously, Adams and many others are overlooking how those early Vol turnovers came about. It was very clear how many of them occurred when the Kat players reached in, grabbed an arm, slapped across the Vols handling the ball, and knocked it free. Yes, we know also some of the turnovers were pure carelessness. Often, a Lady Vol would dribble straight into the Kat defender and the ball would be swiped away.

Still, a lot of the problems were indeed the passing or lack of passing the ball. People were just standing there and the Lady Vol with the ball would simply force the passes trying to make something happen.

The worst officiating in maybe forever occurred before the half. The Kat charges before the basket was made. The zebras ignored the first violation........the charge. Gave the Kats the following basket plus a one and one.

I hope Dapper Dan Mitchell really believe it's going to be this way from now on. Stay tuned.

1volk-nowi-tall writes:

TEAM PICKED BY COACHES TO FINISH 5TH WINS SEC CONFERENCE. What a great headline this is. Hey we have performed above our expectations. No we are not great, a step or so slow in most positions. Not a consistantly good shooting team and certainly not a team with great ability to see open players and pass the basketball. Turnovers have played a hugh role in every loss this team has suffered. We fail to stop the basketball on dribble drives by our opponents and are just a step and a half slow in getting out to defend that 3 point shooter. Oh did I mention that we are playing with a short bench as well. TEAM PICKED TO FINISH 5TH WINS SEC TITLE.

jmaples54 writes:

in response to emailnodata:

@under
sorry, but I, too,take Adams as being a condescending snot on this one.

He's a columnist, he gets paid for drawing comments and eyeballs.

I'm not nearly as close to the Vol/LV program as I sued to be, and I can tell you I felt for those ladies. I was watching on ESPNU on a 46-inch screen, and it was easy to see from play 1 that the A&N game had not warn off physically, emotionally, or mentally. Those players sold out every ounce they had to beat a physically superior A&M, and just could NOT bring it back in gear in front of a hostile crowd, physical team, and.....whatever else.

So, yeah, Adams wrote the column, and I'm calling him out for being a jerk.

they cut the nets down thursday night. i think sunday's loss might have been a good wakeup call. if the girls don't play quicker and more aggressive, AND get ready to play 3 games in 3 days, they won't be cutting down any more nets.

you can call adams a jerk, a snot all you want. nobody cares, especially adams. sounds like you'd be a great sportswriter-- why don't you try it? just ignore those crybabies who don't like what you write.

emailnodata (Inactive) writes:

in response to jmaples54:

they cut the nets down thursday night. i think sunday's loss might have been a good wakeup call. if the girls don't play quicker and more aggressive, AND get ready to play 3 games in 3 days, they won't be cutting down any more nets.

you can call adams a jerk, a snot all you want. nobody cares, especially adams. sounds like you'd be a great sportswriter-- why don't you try it? just ignore those crybabies who don't like what you write.

well,
lemme put it this way.

I certainly don't give a flying F whether you like what I wrote or not.

Working well for ya??

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